Friday, November 25, 2022

Ancient stories with modern morals (Folktales of Chinese Minorities 23. - Lahu)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

Lahu stories
Angela Pun, Paul W. Lewis
White Lotus Press, 2002.

As the title suggests, this book contains 49 Lahu folktales. The Lahu are a people numbering about one million, living mainly in Southern China as well as some Southeast Asian countries. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language.
This book is the English translation of a Lahu collection. The original was published in 1939, written by a Baptist pastor named Ai Pun, who was also a storyteller who wanted to preserve the Lahu language and culture. The translation was the idea of his daughter (also a pastor). The selection was obviously influenced by this religious background, and the worship of God has an important place in the narratives, but according to the introduction the main goal was preserving the stories and their culture. The first half of the volume contains myths and origin legends, while the second contains folktales.


The first few stories dealt with creation. One of my favorite moments was that the Creator, before getting to work, thought and planned for a long time (wore out seven pairs of shoes standing, seven chairs sitting, and seven beds lying down), so that everything would be created perfect. Stories even explained how he made the earth revolve. Creation was followed by the origin stories of animals; among them, one that explained why the peacock's anus protrudes when it dances. Another story claimed that the shrew once told a very beautiful funeral speech, and so many animals patted his nose in approval that it grew long.
An interesting legend explained why the Lahu live in the mountains: the Creator wanted to reward them with the fertile lowlands, but every time they had to make a symbolic choice they always picked the mountains (while the Dai, who will be discussed later, got the plains).


After creation, a rivalry broke out between the Creator and a giant - and this legend, about them competing and trying to destroy each other, contained a whole bunch of familiar motifs: cosmic hide-and-seek, cheating in a running race, cheating in a flight race, nine suns in the sky, eternal darkness, even a flood. In the end, the Creator could only defeat the giant by cheating. He ground up its remains and shot them into the air with a cannon: they became flies and termites (this motif was also familiar, minus the cannon).
The creation of people was an interesting mix of motifs from East Asia (humans born from a gourd, shapeless first child, ancestors raised by animals) and the Bible (forbidden tree, serpent, first couple, ladder reaching for the sky, evil city destroyed). The story of lost writing was also familiar from other minorities: the Creator gave the Lahu their alphabet written on pastries, which they ate - so they don't have literacy, but they carry the Creator's words in their heart. (The Han Chinese also lost their tablets, but they returned and asked for new ones).
The story of the fisherman who crossed into the underwater realm to untangle a dragon's daughter from a net reminded me of tales about crossing into the animal world from Brazil, Scotland, and Togo. Other familiar tale types also made an appearance, such as the foolish boy who followed his mother's instructions to the letter and did everything wrong; the animal husband (or in this case just a human head), animal bride (the orphan, with some hide-and-seek), golden-haired children (the three suffering children), and Aladdin.
The local trickster was the rat, who outsmarted a bear with various tricks that reminded me of Mouse Deer.

Who's up next?
The Pumi people

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Storytellers' Secret Santa 2022

Who wouldn't want to receive a shiny, new, exciting story for the winter holiday of their choice - from a fellow storyteller?

After last year's success, Storytellers' Secret Santa is back this year! :)

Here's the rules:

1. We are sending stories as gifts to each other. You draw another storyteller's name in secret (I'll take care of this), and you send them a story. Someone else sends a story to you. That's it. Joy all around. (No, this is not a chain email!)

2. YOU GIVE A STORY, you get a story. This is important. Secret Santa kinda sucks if your gift never arrives. So, only commit if you are sure you can send your gift out in time! Don't ruin someone else's miracle.

3. Please observe copyright (see below*). This means it is easiest if we mostly work with folktales, or stories in the public domain. Be mindful of cultural appropriation.

4. We are doing this in English. For now. Only do another language if you are sure the person you send your story to shares your native language.

5. With that said, this will be extra fun if the stories are not easily accessible in English! Translating something that most people don't have access to is a very nice gift!

6. In fact, MAKE AN EFFORT. Don't just copy-paste a text from the Internet. Find something rare. Old. Shiny. Not readily available. Do some digging. Make it fun. Share the fun! Give the gift of research.

7. Many of you asked last year if you have to send the story in writing, or whether you can record it in audio/video. This year, I put the question on the form. If the person you are gifting to wants the story in writing, it will be marked for you in the email. Otherwise, all media are ok, dealer's choice!

8. It is assumed that the story you gift to someone is theirs to tell. No strings attached. (Do check with your Santa if you want to publish it in the future, though!)

9. TIMELINE: Sign up on the form below by DECEMBER 1st (midnight, wherever your midnight is). The day after, you will receive an email with the name of the person you are gifting to. Then, you have until DECEMBER 24th THE LATEST to send your story, in an email! Make it nice. Put a bow on it.

10. On the form, you will get the chance to give 3 keywords about what kinds of stories you generally like. This will be a guideline for your Secret Santa, but not a guarantee! Be open to new stories.

11. Keep the stories family friendly, unless explicitly stated in the keywords otherwise.

Are we good? Good.

Here's the form: 

Please, don't troll this. Just, don't be a troll. Seriously.

* On copyright: In many countries, folktales are not under copyright. However, someone's retelling of a folktale can be. Also, specific translations can be protected by copyright too. It is worth checking the rules in your home country. Look for sources that are in the public domain (also depends on the country, but online archives are a great place to start!). If you work with a folktale, try to find multiple versions, and craft your own telling of it.

You can also craft your own story. But be aware that this is a Secret Santa for storytellers, so no novelettes or literary short stories, please. We are sharing tellable tales. Fairy tales. Fables. Legends. You get the idea.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Mergens are cool, dedus are cooler (Folktales of Chinese Minorities 22. - Hezhe/Nanai)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

The Yimakan Epics of the Hezhe Ethnic Minority of China

Liaoning People's Publishing House, 2013.
Wang Weibo

This book contains epics told/sung by the Hezhe people, in English translation. These epics that contain a lot of cultural knowledge are called Yimakan, a term embedded in shamanistic tradition - among the heroes of the stories, many are powerful shamans themselves. The protagonists are all mergens (heroes, brave men). The Hezhe are one of the smallest ethnic minorities in China: there are barely twenty thousand of them left, and many don't speak their native language anymore. (They are also called Nanai, but that's an exonym.)
The book's introduction talks about the epic tradition, the cultural context of the epics, and the process of translation. The volume contains four epics. Translation began in 2010; the texts were translated from Chinese, but in close collaboration with the Hezhe community. Each epic comes with the name of the storyteller as well as the translator. The Hezhe Yimakan tradition has been on the UNESCO cultural world heritage list since 2011, as a tradition in urgent need of safeguarding.
(My favorite part about the translation process was that the Chinese team read English "epics" - mostly Robin Hood - to familiarize themselves with their language, and give an epic feel to the stories in translation. As a result, the texts sometimes have eyebrow-raising lines such as "gee whiz", "kingdom come", or "for your revenge she's an OK assistant").

Since the book only contains four epics, I'll write about all of them:

Xiangsou Mergen

Xiangsou Mergen goes from lazy boy to powerful warrior. He hunts down the beasts that his brother's bride asks for as a wedding gift, and then sets out to avenge the death of his parents who were murdered a long time before. On the journey he is joined by other mergens as well as dedus, powerful female shamans (such as his sister-in-law, bride, and the wives of his sworn brothers). At one point he fights a hostile mergen and his wife, and defeated he is hung on a tree by his jaw. A team of dedus rescues him. By the time Xiangsou finds the killers of his parents he is accompanied by an entire superhero lineup of powerful women, who fight an aerial battle while the mergen duels his enemies. Xiangsou loses the duel, but a deity makes an appearance and saves him. In the end, he returns home with a total of six dedu wives, and two villages' worth of people.

Mandu Mergen

The parents of Mandu and his sister Manchin are kidnapped by an enemy, and the two children are left alone. The girl is raised by a deity, but Mandu survives alone and turns feral. After 15 years his sister, now a dedu, returns and tames him, and they set out to take revenge for the death of their parents.
Mandu fights a lot of heroes along the way; he kills some and befriends others, and marries all their dedu sisters. They meet an old woman who warns them that two powerful warriors live nearby with four powerful dedu wives - they are the ones who kidnapped the hero's parents. Mandu and Manchin are not scared. The old woman gives them clothes to protect them in the fight. Mando kills one of the mergens and is about to kill the other when a dedu jumps in and convinces him to show mercy. Mandu and the mergen reconcile, and the siblings meet their long lost mother again in a touching scene (their father had died in captivity). Mandu ends up with three dedu wives and Manchin marries one of his sworn brothers. The epic concludes with a long and detailed shamanistic ritual and celebration.

Mangemu Mergen

Our hero is raised by a single father. When he turns five their village is attacked by bandits. Before the attack the father takes the boy to a distant valley and entrusts him to his good friend Kuomukulu Mafa. By the time he returns, the village is burned, and he himself is killed by the dedu wife of the bandit chief. Mangemu is raised by Kuomukulu Mafa, an old warrior and powerful shaman. When he grows up, his foster father gives him his power, a shaman coat, a magic horse, and three magic arrows. Mangemu sets out to take revenge for his father and his village.
On the way he encounters various mergens and dedus. He even has an archery contest with one: Haohang Dedu, whose hand he wins through taking on various challenges (and completing them with the girl's help). He is also joined by a young archer, Yiwae Mergen, and acquires a magic knife after killing a monster. Arriving to the bandits' village Mangemu kills the chief, but the chief's wife manages to trap the heroes in a building. Haohang Dedu comes to the rescue, blasting the walls open. Another battle follows, and even Kuomukulu Mafa makes an appearance, until finally the heroes are victorious and the dedus defeat the enemy dedus in an aerial battle. Returning home they rebuild their village, and sacrifice the bandits to appease the dead.

Muduli Mergen

Out of the four epics, this one was definitely my favorite.
Muhasen Mergen and Chandu Dedu, a young shaman couple live in a small village in the mountains. One day Muhasen is called by his deity to travel south and find a more plentiful land. The entire village sets out, led by the two shamans, and they eventually find a new home in an abandoned village by a river. They are later joined by many other families, until, twenty years later, they become a large tribe, led by Muhasen Mergen. He has two children: Muduli and Mukeqin, a boy and a girl. 
However, one day three warriors come to the village, hoping to conquer it. Muhasen Mergen is killed in the fight, Chandu and the rest of the villagers are captured and taken into slavery with all their belongings. Chandu Dedu hides her son inside her protective shaman mirror, and Mukeqin hides in the kitchen. The girl, left alone, takes care of herself until she turns seventeen. One day a bandit comes to kidnap her, but in that moment 15-year-old Muduli Mergen jumps out of the mirror, kills the bandit, and saves his sister. He invites the slaves rowing the bandit's boat to join his village. A few days later he sets out with his sister and ten warriors to find his mother and avenge his father.
As per usual, Muduli meets several mergens whom he either kills or accepts as sword brothers - and also meets several dedus that he marries. He is helped in every fight by the shaman mirror that hangs on his chest. At one point, he is shot in the neck in an ambush, and dies. As his soul travels towards the afterlife, he runs into a powerful shaman woman, Zhenggen Dedu (who is conducting another soul to the underworld, as is her job). Zhenggen Dedu takes Muduli's soul back into his body and revives him. After that, obviously, they get married.
After many adventures the heroes reach the village of the three bandits, and defeat them (and their wives) in an epic battle. Celebrating the victory, Muduli and Mukeqin are reunited with their mother. Muduli goes hunting, and meets a brave, dark skinned mergen, whom he invites home - he ends up becoming Mukeqin's husband. After one year of adventures, Muduli returns home with all his people, rebuilds the village, buries his father's remains, organizes a big celebration, and lives happily ever after.

All in all, the four epics were alike in many ways: orphaned hero sets out to take revenge for dead/kidnapped parents, he makes friends and enemies, and encounters a series of dedus who either become his wives or his helpers. To me, the dedus were the most fascinating part of this mythical world. Each of them had her own personality, powers, and adventures. Each epic embellished the basic plot in colorful ways, and had many memorable scenes. I am glad I got to read them.

Who's up next?
The Lahu people

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

StorySpotting: Body and soul mix-and-match (Locke & Key)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Locke & Key, in my opinion, is a seriously underrated show (I haven't read the comics but I hear they are good too). With the new season out, they gave me multiple things to Story Spot.

Where was the story spotted?

Season 3, episodes 4-6.

What happens?

The basic premise of Locke & Key is about an old house that hides various old keys, each with its own magical property. The Ghost Key has been a staple since Season 1. It essentially opens a door that separates one's soul from their body when they walk through. It has been used in various creative ways over the course of the show.
In this season Dodge, the demon who has been the main heroes' arch nemesis, manages to use the door to knock the young boy Bode's soul out of his body. She then leaves her own mortal shell, and takes over the boy's body instead. Bode, left as a floating ghost, eventually manages to regain his own body by projecting his soul into a sparrow, and then transforming back into human shape. (Complicated, I know, but kinda genius).

What's the story?

The whole body-snatching-taking-refuge-in-a-bird thing is actually one of the creepiest pieces of folklore I have ever encountered. And as I looked into it again, it seemed a lot more common than I had believed. It even has a couple of Thompson motif numbers: E725.1 - Soul leaves the body and enters an animal's, and K1175 - Minister dupe raja into entering body of a dead parrot, then enters raja's body. And yes, that latter one is hella specific.

The first time I encountered this trope was in a collection of Tibetan folktales titled Tales of the Golden Corpse. The tale of The Travelling Spirit was about two friends, a prince and a minister's son, who went to school together. The prince was lazy, but the other lad learned the secret art of projecting his soul out of his body (known as phowa). Jealous that the minister's son might upstage him, the prince tricked his friend into showing off his skills - and destroyed the unattended body. Seeking a new place, the boy's lost soul entered an old woman's dead parrot, reanimating it. Later on, the parrot managed to catch up to the prince, and tricked him into falling out of a window... And then the minister's son's soul entered the prince's empty body, and walked away home.
Excellent creepy revenge ending.

As I was reading my way around the world, I encountered this trope again in a collection from Thailand, in a tale titled The Weaverbird Princess. In this story, a silent princess is promised to the suitor who can make her talk. A prince comes along with his mentor, both of them versed in the art of projecting their soul. The mentor projects his soul into various objects in the princess' room, and the prince has conversations with the objects, telling them clever stories. The princess can't help but interject, and thus the prince wins her hand. 
Later on, the prince goes to the forest with his mentor, and, seeing a dead deer, decides to project his soul into the animal and go exploring. He trusts his body to his mentor. However, the evil mentor in turn takes over the prince's abandoned body, burns his own, and goes home to take the prince's place. The prince, not finding a body to return to, transfers himself into a dead parrot. He flies home and tells his wife what happened. The princess manages to trick the mentor into leaving the body and transferring into a goat to show off. The prince thus gets back into his body, and kills the goat in revenge.

Once I started pulling on the king-in-the-dead-parrot thread, a whole lot of other tales came tumbling out. 

There is one in the Turkish story collection titled The history of the forty vezirs, where the evil vezir, instead of burning his own body, puts a slave's soul into it for safekeeping (and the king, while in parrot form, also judges some court cases). Interestingly, in this version the queen recognizes that her husband is not behaving like himself, and refuses to sleep with him.
There is also a version from Pakistan in this book, where the king takes on the parrot's body to pick mangos for his queen. The queen, who is aware of the evil servant's soul in her husband's body from the get-go, devises a clever plan to trick the soul into a lamb's body.
The tale also appears in The Three Princes of Serendip, the English translation of the Italian translation of a medieval Persian tale collection. You can read the story about The Emperor who turned into a parrot here. Once again, the wife's suspicion plays an important part in restoring her husband to his body. Added bonus: the Emperor uses his body-switching ability to travel his kingdom in the disguise of birds, and right wrongs.
Another version of the story can be found in Hatim's Tales, a book of Kashmiri stories collected from storyteller Hatim Tilwon in 1896. The fun part of this one is that the vezir loses the king's stolen body when he goes hunting, and decides to inhabit a bear for greater efficiency. The king then shoots the bear, saying "we can't have a bear for a vezir"... The tale also appears in other Kashmiri collections. It even has a variation in the famous Ocean of the Streams of Stories. Here, a person takes over a recently deceased king's body, but a minister suspects the change. Still, the minister decides an impostor is better than the child heir, and makes sure the soul doesn't have another body to return to. Now this would make a great movie...

In India, the story is known as The Metamorphoses of King Vikramaditya (you can read it in two versions in this volume of North Indian Notes and Queries). In this one, the parrot ends up at his father-in-law's house, judging court cases. Once he actually judges the case of a woman whose husband has been replaced by a shapeshifting dev. Eventually his wife (who is suspicious of her "husband") hears of the parrot and discovers the truth. In the second variant, the evil servant is tricked into the body of a goat and then beheaded, and the head of the goat still laughs and weeps as it's hung in the bazaar.
(I even found a popular comic book adaptation of this story from India.)

A distant relative to this motif is a story from Melanesia, where an evil spirit pushes a girl off a cliff, and takes over her body and identity.


So here we have a folktale type that spans a continent at least, and also several centuries in time, all the way from 11th century Kashmir to 21st century Netflix. Traveling souls and body-snatchers are a rich topic for people to think about. It probably has something to do with our mortality...

(Fun fact: I originally started working on this post when I was watching The 100)

Friday, August 19, 2022

StorySpotting: The monster in the wilderness (Prey)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

So I just watched Prey, which is an amazing movie, and immediately fell down a rabbit hole. This is not just a cool action flick, but also fascinating in terms of how it incorporated Comanche culture, tradition, and even language (as the first major Hollywood production with full Comanche dubs at its release). I recommend this article for more details.

Where was the story spotted?

Prey (Hulu, 2022.)

What happens?

Naru, the movie's main hero, flees from her first encounter with the Predator (that kills a bear in front of her). She meets young men in the woods and tries to describe what she has seen: 

"It was huge. I couldn't see it until it was covered in blood, but it looked like... like a mupitsl."

One of the young men scoffs. "You saw a monster from a children's story?"

What's the story?

Okay, disclaimer first: there are a million people out there who could do this better than me, because I only found out about this creature like a day ago. But I went down the rabbit hole, and got excited, so this is me nerding out. I am citing all my sources in the links for accuracy.

So, mupitsl. Also known (or rather, spelled) as Pia Mupitsl, Pia Mupitsi, piamupits, piamupitz, mu pitz, mupits, piamupitsi, and a bunch of other variations.

The name, apparently, means 'great owl' or 'giant owl', and refers to the monster's owlish features. It is also translated in some places as 'big old giant' or 'cannibal owl.' Apparently large owls were admired by the Comanche by their ability to hunt quietly and stealthily in the night.

The earliest mention I found is a Spanish-Comanche dictionary from 1865, written by Manuel García Rejon and published in Mexico. In it, the piamupitz is described as "an imaginary being, human-shaped and gigantic, that carries an extraordinarily large staff as a walking stick, devours humans, and lives in caves in the mountains of the distant North. It is believed that if the staff breaks, it dies."
1994 article about Comanche tradition of topography also mentions the piamupits' mountain habitat, and the actual caves it was supposed to live in.

So far, the Predator does a pretty great job with this impersonation.

A Comanche medicine woman named Sanapia, whose knowledge of medicine was recorded, used bone fragments (mammoth fossils) in her work. She called them piamupits bones. She described the piamupits as a large, hairy giant, tall, with big feet, and with a face like a man. She claimed their bones ended up in the ground when they died of old age.
Turns out the bones of the piamupits were valuable medicine. An article from 1942 mentions pieces of fossil bones that were believed to be the bones of the Piamupits (a "supernatural being"), and used to treat sprains and broken bones. Sanapia also used them for the same thing.

Fossil bones and legendary creatures took me to Adrienne Mayor, who researches traditions around the world involving fossils. She does not only describe Mu pitz traditions in detail in the book linked above, but she also went straight to the source, talking to contemporary Comanche storytellers and tradition bearers. One of whom - drumroll! - was the same Juanita Pahdopony who consulted on Prey. Well, that explains a whole lot. We love it when storytellers consult on movies! The storytellers confirmed that both forms of the creature - the hairy giant and the large owl - existed parallel in tradition.

Most of the actual stories I found came from a book on Comanche Ethnography. There is one story about a group of children who get left behind when their camp moves, and they end up at a piamupits' cave. They manage to make an escape with the help of various animals (a frog, a crane, an eagle, a buffalo, and a calf). In the end, the owl-mupits is thrown up into the moon where it lives today.
In another story, a hunter encounters a piamupits (in the form of a giant man) while hunting buffalo. it offers the creature meat, but the piamupits wants to eat the hunter instead. He flees, but the piamupits tracks him down to his camp. Eventually, the hunter manages to kill the invulnerable creature by sticking a sharp pole up its anus.
In yet another story, the piamupits enters a hunter's tipi while he is away, and kills his pregnant wife in a very graphic way. The twins she had in her belly, however, survive, and their father later finds them.
There is also a story in the collection where the piamupits functions as the dragon in European stories: a girl is supposed to be devoured by the eight-headed creature, but a young man saves her. Another young man tries to take credit for the kill, but the girl tells her father the truth.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center also has a short introduction to the Pia Mupits who uses a cottonwood tree as a cane, and was mentioned to scare children into quieting down. Many of the sources seem to agree that the piamupits was a child-scaring creature in folklore.


Early in the movie, after witnessing the Predator's ship in the sky, Naru calls it a Thunderbird. Thunderbird lore is vast and well documented, but I came across one thing in one of the articles I read about the piamupits: it mentions a Thunderbird that fell into a ravine from the sky, killed some men with lightning, and burned out a large patch of grass "in the shape of a bird" where it landed. So.


The more I read about piamupitsl folklore, the more impressed I got with how one throwaway line from the movie integrates so much of tradition so seamlessly into the movie-mythology of the Predator. On purpose, and with consulting Comanche educators. Let's face it, the two might be centuries apart, but the 'masterful, deadly hunter stalking its prey in the wilderness' is an age-old story that keeps surfacing again and again...

Monday, August 8, 2022

StorySpotting: "This b*** I've never heard about before" (Canada's Drag Race)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Yeah, I watch Drag Race sometimes, when my overworked brain needs the mental equivalent of a chewing gum. I am fascinated by the makeup and the sewing challenges. 
One thing I learned is that these shows are usually hilariously off the mark whenever it comes to geek culture... or mythology. And then recently I saw one thing I needed to blog about.

Where was the story spotted?

Canada's Drag Race, season 3, episode 2 (The Who-Knows)

What happens?

The runway theme for this episode was Goddesses of the Ancient World. All of the contestants would be worth a post... but I'll focus on one: Kimmy Couture, who walked the runway in a Vegas showgirl-esque orange dress and headpiece. During the critique round, this conversation happened between the judges and Kimmy:

"Tell us about your goddess."

"So, I went on Google, and I searched it, and then I found this b*tch that I've never heard before... I just really wanted to show some sun because I feel like, I'm like a ball of fire."

"Well, you nailed it. It all worked out."

Kimmy went on to win this episode.

What's the story?

Okay, yeah, it irked me that someone on TV would refer to a mythical character in this manner, and lack of attention to... basic facts, like her name. Because Kimmy herself could not tell us who the goddess was, I became curious to see if she'd just made up a generic sun deity for fun. After some searching, I found a post on her Instagam, and was surprised that she named the goddess there: her name was Alectrona or Elektryone.

So, here is what Kimmy didn't tell you:

Elektryone belongs to the Greek pantheon. She was a demigoddess venerated on the island of Rhodes, as the daughter of the sun god Helios and the island's own patron goddess Rhode (whom the locals worshiped as an aspect of Athena). Rhode herself was a sea nymph, the daughter of Poseidon. So Elektryone belonged to not one, but two illustrious divine families: that of the ocean, and that of the sun. Very fitting for an island deity. She had seven brothers, all kings of Rhodes.

According to some sources, Elektryone was the (demi)goddess of the sunrise. Her name is related to the Greek word for amber, which was always associated with the sun for its color, and its ability to create sparks. Elektryone was also a personification of youth, since according to myth she died a virgin, before she became elevated to the rank of a local deity. Youth and the sunrise go hand in hand.

By the way, the whole myth about Helios' family on Rhodes is pretty interesting. According to one story when the Greek gods divided up the world among themselves, Helios was not present, because, well, he was doing sun things in the sky at the time. So, they conveniently forgot about him, and gave him no realm. However, just at that time the island of Rhodes rose up from the sea, and Helios made his claim of that new piece of land. Other sources say Helios himself raised the island from the sea, after falling in love with Rhode.

You can read more about Rhode here, and Helios' family in Rhodes here.


I have a soft spot for Helios' family in mythology (going all the way back to Kerényi Károly's mythology books, and, most recently, Circe). That look Kimmy served did not read Greek, or mythical, to me at all - but then again, I'm not a fashion expert. I am happy for the chance to introduce some lesser known deities in this post, though. So... yay?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Flame-Red Fairy King: a short and weird Hungarian folktale translation

I was commissioned to translate another Hungarian folktale text, so I'm putting it up as a resource too.

The Flame-Red Fairy King 

Once upon a time there was a fairy king, who, for being completely red all over, was called Flame-Red Fairy King, and whomever he touched, he immediately burned. Once upon a time he had a daughter named Tündér Ilona (Fairy Ilona). Once, the devil in the disguise of a merchant asked for Ilona's hand in marriage, and having won her, he took her on his ship to a forest castle by the water, where he had four other ladies locked up in a room. To the same place he invited all the other fairies along with the Fairy King, claiming that he wanted them to visit his wife, but when they arrived, he attempted to murder the Fairy King. However, when he touched the king, he was immediately burned, and the fairies killed him. They kept the castle to themselves, but that magic building collapsed on them, killing all the fairies.

From Ipolyi Arnold's collection.
Text collected by Károly Weber in Szeged, Hungary, in 1835.

Someone needs to turn it into... dunno. A novel, or a movie, or something. Fill in the blanks. :)